Google to Start Accepting Addiction Treatment Ads Again
By Christopher A. Parrella, J.D., CHC, CPC, CPCO
A year after banning addiction treatment center ads worldwide, Google has announced that it will resume accepting these ads, but with significantly stricter oversight, according to a story that broke on Reuters.
You may recall that last year, the search engine behemoth started limiting ads on search results pages for inquiries about drug and alcohol treatment centers, citing an increase in deceptive and misleading ads.
The ban followed an investigative story on The Verge that detailed horror stories of those seeking treatment, but finding they had instead been scammed. As the opioid epidemic soared, more questionable ads appeared. Google justified its decision to pull the ads saying some rehab clinics advertising through Google AdWords “do not provide the quality care that addicts need to successfully overcome their disease.”
The National Association of Addiction and Treatment Providers applauded Google’s decision calling it “a significant and welcomed move given the tremendous abuses we see on the internet.”
As Google wades back in, it says the ads must first be vetted by LegitScript, a verification and monitoring service for online pharmacies. Those who want to run ads, including providers of in-person addiction treatment, mutual support groups, and crisis hotlines, must comply with more than a dozen criteria such as criminal background checks, license and insurance verification.
“Substance abuse is a growing crisis and has led to deceptive practices by bad actors. This is a complex issue but we believe our partnership with LegitScript is a great first step in the U.S. to help better connect people with the treatment they need,” David Graff, senior director, global product policy, Google, said in a news release.
LegitScript’s CEO, John Horton wrote in a blog on the company’s website that they plan to “intentionally take it slow” and regardless of how many applications they receive, will “probably certify about 20 to 30, simply so that we can make sure and get the process right.”
Treatment centers also must provide “written policies and procedures demonstrating a commitment to best practices, effective recovery and continuous improvement.” Vetting these ads won’t come cheap. LegitScript, will charge $995 upfront and then $1,995 annually for vetting, according to published reports.
“Some fly-by-night treatment centers put profits ahead of patients, providing substandard treatment or no care at all. We want to ensure that patients are afforded the opportunity for quality treatment,” said Horton, in a news release.
It’s important to note that not all drug and alcohol addiction services will be eligible. Sober homes and referral agencies are not allowed to advertise at this point.
The new certification program has the support of the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP), and The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA).
CASA, NAATP, the Partnership, and other entities to be determined will form an advisory committee to LegitScript for this certification program. The committee will ensure the continuous improvement and accountability of LegitScript’s program, and as leading experts will keep LegitScript informed about new trends and challenges.
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